Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Support Tech or Carrier?

Every year about this time people start calling in sick. They have a cold, or they have the flu. They have something that they rather not go into detail about. As a manager you expect the flu season to wreak havoc and most of us prepare for it. We encourage our troops to get flu shots. We are prepared to fill in if need be and we make sure all of our techs wash their hands before and after touching anyone’s keyboard.

Typhoid Mary

What? You mean to tell me you don’t have your techs wash their hands between customers? You think that would be overkill and your techs would laugh at you anyway? Well get over and get on board. If your techs are moving from cubicle to cubicle, keyboard to keyboard, helping one customer after another without washing their hands then your team is the reason so many people call in sick.

According to the WebMD about 80% of contagious disease is spread by touch. We touch a contaminated surface then we touch our mouth nose or eyes, allowing the germ to enter our bodies.  Most people pick up the germs from door knobs, banisters, the things we all tough daily, but the onsite support techs are the only people in the office who regularly touch other people’s keyboards. That exposes the techs to everything anyone might have at the office. Since they often immediately go from one keyboard to another they are a great transport for any germ looking for a new host. Think of it has having a bunch of Typhoid Mary’s with pocket protectors.

It’s not Easy Being Clean

Hand washing is the Key. The CDC reports that the simple act of hand washing prevents the spread of most diseases. Some people like to carry sanitizer and that is good but sanitizer only kills bacteria. They don’t work on cold and flu viruses. The only way to get rid of viruses is to wash them away. Scrubbing your hands together with soap under running water does the trick.

Some think that techs should use disposable gloves, throwing them away between each stop, like doctors and nurses. It’s a good idea but the weirdo factor the gloves bring to anyone outside the medical community would be too much to bear. Let’s face it. Everyone already thinks we read all of their email know where to get the best porn. Add latex gloves to that and it’s just too much.

Most techs will fight it and even those who don’t will have trouble remembering to stop in the restroom and wash every time they touch someone’s keyboard but if you can enforce it, the policy could actually save lives. Believe it or not, 49,000 people die every year from the flu. I don’t know any of them catch it from their support tech but it wouldn’t shock me if one or two could be traced back to an infected keyboard. Don’t let any be traced to your team. Start the hand washing policy today.

For tips on getting your techs to follow a difficult policy like hand washing,  check out the Practical IT Manager Gold Series. It can be an invaluable tool.

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